My small group and I have been talking a lot about entitlements lately. No, not the kind of entitlements that have to do with government spending and the national debt (although that does spark some heated discussion these days, doesn't it?). Instead, we've been discussing those things that we feel entitled to (given by God, country, or perhaps our own hard work)... those things that some may argue that we have a "God-given right" to possess or enjoy. However, the big question lately has been... do we really have a right to these things? Scripturally speaking, at least?
The more we’ve talked and researched, the more I’ve become convinced that we truly have no earthly entitlements if we claim to be in Christ. He has given us the greatest gift – eternal life through his death and resurrection – but truly, we are promised very little other than that. Well, let me take that back… we are promised suffering, persecution, loss, grief, etc. (ha!) It’s easy for us to confuse God’s desire for our joy and peace with a belief that He promises us lives that are happy, comfortable, and easy. While that would be nice, it’s simply not biblically true.
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
About a year ago, I went through a program at my church called Hope Ministry. It was a life-changing experience that encouraged me to think about my faith through the lens of truth and not emotion or experience. One of the most challenging parts of the Hope Ministry curriculum was a document called “Letting Go of my Rights” – it is simply a long list of all those things that we may feel entitled to, which we honestly are never promised by God. The idea behind the list is that “letting go” of all of these “entitlements” will bring us freedom and help us recognize God’s goodness, independent of whether we ultimately receive any of these things or not.
(I know I’ve shared this with many of you before; feel free to peruse the list below if you’ve never seen this before!)
I let go of my right...
-To be happy -To have an attractive body -To health
-To my possessions -To my time -To comfort
-To my past -To my recreation or activity -To my habits
-To wealth -To my future plans and dreams -To self-sufficiency
-To control-To have consequences follow what I've done -To my satisfaction
-To my significance -To my securities -To prosper
-To strength-To know future outcomes
-To my old ways of getting my needs met
-To getting my way -To my reputation -To success
-To notoriety-To my feelings -To my choices
-To my occupation -To be loved -To know God's will
-To demand anything from God -To life itself -To be used by God
-To escape bad circumstances -To fear -To my opinions
-To my judgments -To my timing -To judge
-To emotional security -To my expectations -To be accepted
-To pleasant circumstances -To be understood -To be married
-To my geographical location -To be thanked or appreciated
-To be acknowledged -To have relationships
-To have a child-To have a happy marriage
-To blame -To be rescued-To tell others what I know
-To rescue another -To be heard-To be needed or wanted
-To meet others' needs -To be right-To have others' approval
-To good finances -To take offense-To have justice done
-To defend -To my entitlements -To be justified
That’s heavy, right? I always find myself having such a strong reaction when I read this list. The reality is that we want these things. Is it wrong to desire a healthy body or a happy marriage? No, it’s not… but we also must realize that we can’t expect all of these things, or feel like we’re owed them.
As I reflect upon Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, it becomes clear to me that feeling entitled to things… or really, feeling entitled to anything, is the enemy of gratitude. We can choose to believe that God owes us the right to be understood or to have good finances (especially if we believe we’ve been good stewards and made good financial decisions)… or we can believe that we are potentially enjoying these things because He simply wants to bless us abundantly with them for this season. We can choose to feel entitled to our geographical location or to have justice… or we can count them as blessings.
Although this list is tough to swallow, and it’s something I’d rather stash away and not revisit frequently, I’m slowly starting to see the value in really internalizing this truth. I encourage you to go through the list and determine which of these entitlements you cling to with fervor and think about loosening the grip and raising that hand instead in praise to an unbelievably generous Father. I know that’s what I’m trying to do these days.